3 health-focused startups in JHU's Social Innovation Lab - Baltimore


Apr. 20, 2016 11:19 am

3 health-focused startups in JHU’s Social Innovation Lab

From on-demand orthotics to at-home health choices, these ventures are out to build a healthier Baltimore.

Hopkins officials mingle at the opening of FastForward East, February 2015.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Ahead of the Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab’s Impact and Innovation Forum on April 21, we’re profiling the entrepreneurs that are part of the current cohort.

Here’s a look at three startups focused on building health solutions in Baltimore:


Param Shah thinks orthotics shouldn’t take a month to arrive.

The process of making the braces that are worn to help movement in the feet (think flat feet), legs (think Forrest Gump) or even the spine is one of the many areas of healthcare that hasn’t changed in years. First, specialists make a plaster mold of the area of the body that needs to be corrected, then ship it to a custom fabricator who makes the brace.

On trips to India, Shah found the process to be especially cumbersome in rural areas, and founded a nonprofit to help children with disabilities while in high school. When he returned home and enrolled in Johns Hopkins, he found the same process was being used in the U.S.

Along with fellow undergraduate Alex Mathews, he started Fusiform to speed up the process. In addition to Social Innovation Lab, the company is also a member of AccelerateBaltimore’s 2016 cohort. Once the accelerator programs are complete at the end of April, the company plans to move into an office at Impact Hub in May.

The startup’s approach is twofold. Instead of the plaster mold, the company utilizes a tablet-mounted 3D scanner to create a model of the targeted area of the body. They have been working on software, called Cast, that allows a view of the model, and communication between a clinic and custom fabricator. That’s meant to cut time down at the clinic from an hour or more to a few minutes.

Cutting out the weeks of waiting for the device, Fusiform is also looking to allow clinics to produce the devices on the spot. The company has designed a device that can be shaped to a patient’s specific needs. Shah calls it a “platform” where components can be added or removed. Initially, the device is focused on the lower legs and feet.

Greater Baltimore Health Improvement Initiative

In August, a lawyer, an educator, a pediatrician, an entrepreneur and industry experts in healthcare and finance came together to address health disparities in Baltimore. By the fall, the Greater Baltimore Health Improvement Initiative was moving forward as a member of the Social Innovation Lab cohort.


The group is looking to address the determinants of health outcomes that happen before people reach a clinic. They’re looking to hold events and programs “to let people see health care is not just about going to doctor’s office,” said board member Angela Wells. With the Social Innovation Lab, the group’s board members got a chance to ask questions and make connections with mentors and other startups without having to cold call.

After collecting data about what drives people’s health decisions at a pilot event in February, the org is planning a teen summit that gets parents involved and provides connections to summer activities.

B’more Healthy Teaching Kitchen

Many people look at the food desert map of Baltimore and think about grocery stores. A group of food enthusiasts affiliated with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine thought about the kitchen itself.

The group, including Shannon WongvibulsinHelen Knight and Paul Akre are developing an interactive course for East Baltimore residents that includes supermarket trips, nutrition lessons and hands-on cooking lessons.

“We are in the process of gathering feedback on our concept, and developing a better understanding of the need for and interest in this type of program so that we can develop the most effective curriculum possible,” a fact sheet provided by the org states.

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